BORIS SALZMANfacecommjul2018.PNG

AMATEUR HISTORIAN, SHOEMAKER

Tell us a little about your career.

Although I have a life-long interest in history, by profession I am a shoemaker. My father said that I could pursue my interest in history, but that I should also have a profession. And since he was a hereditary shoemaker from tsarist times, my father taught me this profession.

Tell us a little about your family background.

My family comes from Kiev. Before the war, our family had four boys. Two of them - twins - were sent to the front. One was killed, and the second lost his feet and eyes after stepping on a land mine. My mother did not want to leave Kiev. Like many Jews, she believed that the Germans would finally bring democracy. My father insisted on leaving, and we left just before the occupation. We got to the Urals, to the city of Orsk. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, about 500 Polish Jews fled to the Soviet Union. Those who found themselves in Orsk opened a shoe factory for the Red Army. My father immediately began to work there. After the war, my disabled brother returned to Kiev from the hospital and immediately went to Babi Yar, since he was sure we were all buried there. When we returned from Orsk and were reunited, there was no limit to the joy. Soon after, another brother was arrested and exiled to the camp for anti-Soviet statements, where he stayed until Stalin's death. By that time we had already moved to Lviv.

One of my mother's sisters lost 5 children at the front during the war, and the other three - all were officers. In addition, both sisters lost their husbands. This is me to how "the Jews fought in Tashkent"! Only the husband of the younger of my mother's sisters survived the war, because we were evacuated.

You said that you are interested in history. Which topic?

Born just before the war, I've become a hostage for life. The theme of the war does not leave my soul. Two events in particular engaged me the study of the Holocaust. The first one is connected with the famous song “The enemies burned their native hut.” Its authors, composer Matthew Blanter and poet Mikhail Isakovsky, dedicated the song to warriors returning from the war. In thousands of settlements where Jews lived, there was no one left. When the surviving Jewish warriors returned home, they found neither a home nor a family. In Babi Yar in Kiev, 36,000 Jews were killed in two days. We would also be there if my father did not insist on leaving. The text of this song, a poem really, inspired me.

The second event is connected with the trial of Eichmann, held in 1961 in Jerusalem. Prosecutor Gideon Hausner read the accusatory speech for two days. When he finished, the verdict was immediately issued in many languages. My Zionist friends somehow got hold of a copy of this speech, and I was shocked by its contents. These two facts influenced the direction of my research.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?

I dedicate my free time to my grandchildren and to the study of Jewish history. I have collected a lot of materials on the Holocaust. In addition, I like to read the Brief Jewish Encyclopedia.

Given the opportunity to meet anyone, who would you choose?

I would like to talk with an amazing poet, Boris Chichibabin, who was not a Jew, but in whose work the Jewish theme is very strongly manifest. I want to share the lines of his poems:

    The blood of the tortured heart will pour, the scarlet will-we have destroyed     the best of our people by half ... Whether the sun would eclipse the sun,     howling, whether to blow the wind, -however we were, if not for the Jews,     it's terrible to think.

On Yad Vashem memorial in Israel, Chichibabin wrote the following:

    ... And stood up, raising his hands to heaven, the Museum of Jewish                 Mourning - a museum of Mankind. The gates passed - and here we are, and     we look at the terrible show-windows with deathly dread in our eyes, as,     with the foaming of Thor, stirring up delirium, there was a European Jewry     perishing in pits and stoves.

What are your plans for the future?

I have serious plans for the future: I want to conclude many years of research on how England and America gave Hitler a green light on the destruction of European Jews.